BY RAY SCHAEFER
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
OLIVE HILL There’s one thing Tim Rice will never, ever do.
Russell’s baseball coach won’t give his Red Devils an “A,” but it’s not because he’s unhappy with Wednesday’s 85 win at West Carter.
“I’d give us a solid “B,” Rice said. “Twenty-one wins is big; anytime you get to 20 is huge. I think we could’ve played better at times … I’m never gonna give us that “A” grade until we play perfect baseball. We’re always looking to get better every day.”
The Red Devils finished their regular season at 21-13. Still, it took a few more letters of the alphabet to describe what they did Wednesday.
There was an “S” for small ball. Yes, center fielder Nick Conley started the Red Devils’ five-run second inning with a solo home run, but left fielder Ben Naliborski’s two-run single sent home Casey Hensley and Austin Brinkman, and third baseman Kenith Gomez’s single scored Zach Gillum.
“It’s basically what gets the spark going, simple base hits,” Naliborski said.
There was an “H” for hitting. Russell was 6-of-14 from the top five of its lineup, Gillum, Gomez, Landon Brewer, Conley and Hensley (Gomez was 2for-3 with two runs scored, and Hensley was 2-for-2 with a double).
Gomez added an “E” for “executing a little bit better bunts, getting those down a little more.”
West Carter's (17-12) numbers were delightful and distressing.
The delightful: home runs from J.T. Johnson, Peyton Brown and Dalton Brown (the Browns' shots keyed a three-run seventh inning); Peyton's 3-for-4; Johnson's 2- for-3; and Dalton Thornsberry's 2-for-3.
And the distressing: five errors and eight runners left on base. Comets coach Tim Johnson was decidedly not dismayed.
“The errors don't really even faze me,” coach Johnson said. “(Players) were in the right position to make the plays … we had a couple of bad hops. I'm OK with that.”
West Carter's fourth inning was an example of both taking advantage of and squandering an opportunity.
J.T. Johnson took Jaeden Layne deep to left, and one out later there were singles from Richard McGlone and Thornsberry. Then, a flameout – Layne struck out Ben Wilburn and Trace Tackett.
West Carter takes on Ashland for the fourth time this season at 6 p.m. Thursday in Olive Hill (the Comets are 2-1 against the Tomcats). Russell meets Lewis County in the 63rd District tournament at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Flatwoods.
RUSSELL 050 001 2— 8 8 1 W.CARTER 100 100 3— 5105 Layne, Manning (5) and Brinkman; Johnson, McGlone (5) and Rose. WP— Layne. LP-Johnson. HR—Conley (R), Johnson (WC), P. Brown (WC). 2B—Hensley (R), Atkins (R), Gillum (R), P. Brown (WC), D. Brown (WC).